Dry January Could Be a Major Boost to Your Gut Health—An Expert Explains

After a few weeks of holiday parties and even more holiday cookies, the inevitable happens: we double down on our leafy greens and commit to ditching alcohol through the month of January. And while that’s all well and good, without a real understanding as to why we’re making these behavioral shifts (beyond joining the Dry January fervor), it’s not likely to amount to any lasting, positive change. It’s a truth we now know well about making resolutions in the new year—without setting clear intentions first, we’re likely to get lost along the way. That’s why, when I learned about the connection between alcohol and gut health, I knew it would be a boost to helping my booze-free resolutions stick.

Among all the buzzy wellness words, there’s perhaps nothing that’s caught the health-inclined conscious more than gut health. It affects everything from our skin to immunity to our digestion. And while what you eat, the supplements you take, and your ability to manage stress can impact your gut health, more and more, we’re learning that our drinking habits play a key role as well.

Featured image by Christie Graham.

Image by Teal Thomsen

Alcohol and Gut Health: The Surprising Connection

To better understand the connection between alcohol and gut health, I got in touch with Daina Trout, MS MPH. Daina is the Chief Mission Officer and co-founder of Health-Ade Kombucha (a favorite among all of us here at Camille Styles). She’s spoken and written extensively about alcohol and its impact on your gut. Ahead, learn how much alcohol is okay to drink, the toll alcohol can take on your immunity, and strategies for counteracting alcohol consumption to keep your gut healthy.

Daina Trout

Daina Trout, MS MPH is the Chief Mission Officer and co-founder of Health-Ade Kombucha. She received her Bachelor of Science from Georgetown University and went on to earn her Master’s degrees in Nutrition and Public Health from Tufts University. In 2019, Daina was included on Inc’s Female Founder 100 list and was also named BevNet’s Person Of The Year. In 2020, Daina was highlighted on Entrepreneur’s 100
Powerful Women list, and was a featured guest on NPR’s How I Built This.

Woman drinking tea.
Image by Belathée Photography

Is there any amount of drinking that’s okay?

Studies show that after just two to three days in a row of more than two drinks, on average, a meaningful negative change in the gut takes place. There is a significant increase in pathogenic bacteria and bacteria that produce inflammation and a significant decrease in bacteria that fight infection and inflammation. There is also a reduction in overall abundance of microbes, an increase in gut permeability, and an interruption of your circadian proteins.

All these things can cause so many health issues. From increased likelihood of getting sick and digestive issues to messed up sleep and achy joints. It truly wreaks havoc when you cross the line of too much. 

While I really do enjoy alcohol, it is the thing probably most unhealthy to our microbiome when we have it in excess. 

On the other hand, research has found that when you consume two or less drinks no more than a couple times a week, alcohol isn’t as damaging to a healthy gut. That may be your sweet spot if you’re looking for one! The most important thing here is to listen to your body. All these studies are done on groups of people, so the outcomes are averages and may not be your number.

In general, drinking less will be better for all, but you may be more or less sensitive than the average, so that’s why we always say: follow your gut!

How effective is Dry January in terms of resetting the body?

The long-term benefits of taking a break from alcohol, like Dry January, haven’t been hugely studied. However, most would probably agree it wouldn’t be a bad idea, provided you don’t overcompensate with 10 drinks on February 1. What I find to be more effective long-term is mindful drinking—learning how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol where you can enjoy it but not have too much. 

Woman petting cat.

How does alcohol affect and even compromise our immunity?

Alcohol, immunity, and gut health are very connected. It is now understood that immunity is very much driven by our microbiome. We can have bacteria that cause our bodies to be worse at fighting infection and bacteria that can strengthen it. Alcohol, after excess exposure, quickly tips the scale to support a microbiome makeup that is weak at fighting infection. Alcohol also injures our intestinal walls, widening the space so all kinds of toxins can enter our bodies, causing problems where they land. This also compromises our immunity, and not just in the short term.

Floral cocktails.

Similarly, mood tends to dip and many people experience seasonal affective disorder in the winter. How can alcohol consumption make this worse?

One of (if not the) biggest drivers of our mood is our gut. An abundant and healthy microbiome is repeatedly connected to people feeling good about themselves and decreased depression and anxiety. The opposite is true with a microbiome that’s less abundant and pro-inflammatory. Because excess alcohol consumption is bad for the gut, and causes the wrong microbes to flourish, you may not be surprised to hear that a major side effect of too much alcohol is feeling down and experiencing low energy.

How can we counteract alcohol consumption and its effects on the gut?

By exposing your gut to healthy bacteria and tons of prebiotics, and avoiding the things that hurt it, you can improve your gut health. You can boost your microbiome by:

  1. Feeding your gut a variety of high-fiber foods like fruits and veggies.
  2. Eating/drinking fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir on the regular.
  3. Avoiding things like alcohol, stevia, and fake sugars that compromise it.

You should also be careful to take antibiotics only when necessary. That’s another thing that hurts our microbiome, and it can take a year to recover.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks to Give Your Gut a Break

For more options, consult our list of editor-approved non-alcoholic drinks.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

“To no surprise, one of my favorite alcohol alternatives is kombucha. It’s tasty, tangy, and subtly sweet. I love champagne and think it’s the perfect replacement drink when I’m in the mood for something bubbly, especially if you put it in a flute!” — Daina Trout

I’m in good company calling Proxies one of my favorite non-alcoholic wine alternatives. Bon Appétit, and The Kitchn agree—this is the brand to pick up whether you’re exploring sober curiosity or simply want to enjoy your evening and the next morning’s workout. While the blends don’t taste *exactly* like wine, that’s not really the point. They’re something different—perhaps even better. The flavors are funky and complex, so instead of feeling like you’re missing out, you’ll realize you’re sipping on something even more delicious than Sauvignon blanc.

ARMRA Colostrum

Sure, this might not be what you’d substitute your go-to glass of orange wine with, but as someone who’s fully committed herself to the colostrum craze, I’m expecting my 2024 to involve a lot of ARMRA. For context, colostrum is touted as the new collagen. It includes all nine essential amino acids, supports digestion with 200+ functional, bioactive nutrients, and protects skin and hair from signs of aging. If you’re truly looking to step up your gut, hair, and skin health this year, ARMRA is your best option.

While it may seem like every celebrity has their own alcohol/alcohol-alternative brand, De Soi is among the few I’ll happily keep at home. First off: the branding? Gorgeous—I’d stock up on these bottles for aesthetic purposes alone. But there’s the flavor, too. Each bottle is crafted with natural botanicals. Everything from yuzu to blackberry to rose and birch creates a distinct, slightly floral sipper. (And the adaptogenic benefits abound.) The blends are as elegant as the bottles themselves. What’s not to love?

Kin has been around since the sober curious movement first started picking up steam. And while the brand has been a mainstay for years, it’s constantly reinventing itself with new and game-changing flavors and products. Case in point: Actual Sunshine. This mimosa alternative is exactly how I want to kick off every Sunday brunch. Each can is infused with adaptogens, nootropics, and vitamins. What’s more, turmeric boosts immunity while collagen works hard to brighten your complexion—just as the entire experience brightens your mood.

Töst was my first experience with zero-proof drinks, and its crave-worthy deliciousness opened my eyes to what the industry could bring. Each bottle offers a dry, effervescent experience that feels just as celebratory as popping champagne. The flavors are unique and the hint of citrus is perfectly subtle. It’s a drink fit for every occasion.

Dealing With Dry, Crepey Skin? An Expert on Why This Underrated Product Deserves a Comeback

Baby, it’s cold outside! And while there are many joys to wintry weather, my skin doesn’t relish the season the same way my spirit does. But I’ll admit, there is a silver lining. I take the plummeting temps as an opportunity to spend even more time on my skin and body care routines. Summer’s skinimalism is out and in its place is winter skin that needs some serious nourishing. As a proactive step, I’m loading up on the best body butters for the ultimate skin-smoothing routine.

A wintertime skincare routine is essential. It doesn’t just keep flaky skin at bay, but it helps nourish your body’s microbiome and prevent premature aging. Crepey, cracked skin is one thing, but fundamentally dehydrated skin is another. Thankfully, you can rehab parched skin with a little TLC—or a lot of body butter.

What is body butter?

Body butter is the ultimate balm for dry skin. Full of vitamins A and E and omega-3 fatty acids, it helps rejuvenate skin elasticity to fight premature aging. All these nourishing vitamins and fatty acids keep your skin cell membranes healthy to lock in moisture and create a protective barrier around the layers of your skin.

But is a body butter suitable for everyone? The thick, occlusive formulas of body butters deeply nourish skin—but can they clog your pores? Some people shy away from body butters for fear of too much of a good thing. To get to the bottom of it, I spoke to a skincare expert who happens to be the founder of my personal favorite body butter brands. Naa-Sakle Akuete, CEO & Founder of Eu’Genia Shea, a family-founded brand dedicated to empowering women through the sale of raw shea butter.

Read on for all you need to know before diving into the wide and moisturizing world of body butter. From the best ingredients to incorporating body butter into your routine, we’re getting into the nitty-gritty. Plus, scroll to the end to find the right body butter for you.

Naa-Sakle Akuete

Founder of Eu’Genia Shea

Woman in bathroom.

Body Butter Versus Body Cream

Body lotions, butters, and creams, oh my! How do you tell the difference—and how do you pick which one to use?

“Body butter has a concentrated balm-like consistency that deeply moisturizes and is used mainly on target areas of concern,” says Akuete. “A cream has a lotion-like consistency and can be more readily spread onto the skin.”

The Best Ingredient to Look For

Akuete says to focus on non-comedogenic ingredients, such as unrefined shea butter. “The refining process strips the shea of its natural color, scent, and often vitamins,” she notes.

Other nourishing ingredients to look for include:

  • Jojoba Butter
  • Cupuaçu Butter
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Argan Oil
  • Honey
  • Phytosterols (a type of plant-based oil)
The best body butters.
Image by Belathée Photography

Ingredients to Avoid

Stray from pore-clogging ingredients, says Akuete, as well as those that can irritate the skin. Specifically, this looks like:

  • Fragrance + Parfum
  • Parabens
  • Phthalates
  • Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)

Who should use a body butter?

If you’re new to body butter, get ready to revel in all the hydration. Trust: there’s always room for a body butter in your routine.

“Body butter can be used by everyone,” says Akuete. “Especially those with intense skin concerns like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. Even people with oily skin and acne can benefit from using body butter, so long as the products don’t clog pores.”

Woman wearing zebra-print dress.
Image by Belathée Photography

When to Use Body Butter in Your Routine

Body butter locks in moisture, so it’s best used directly after a shower—or following a long soak in the bath. You can also use it on any especially dry areas whenever they need some love. Think elbows, hands, knees, and heels.

“I use Eu’Genia body butters when I’ve gotten out of the shower or washed my hands,” says Akuete. “The Eu’Genia balms came in especially handy when I was pregnant with my daughter—my belly is completely stretch mark free!”

The Best Body Butters for Smoother, Softer Skin

Craving the soft, hydrated skin these heavy-hitting products guarantee? Look no further.

Every product is curated with care by our editors and we’ll always give an honest opinion, whether gifted or purchased ourselves. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

This post was last updated on April 10th, 2023.

The Best Body Butters For Dry Skin

Terrible at Small Talk? 7 Mistakes a Public Speaking Expert Wants You to Avoid

It’s no secret: we love to gather. Any excuse for a party, we’ll be there to celebrate. With friends, family, and even strangers (who won’t be strangers for long), we’re always up for good food and good conversation. But the latter? In a post-pandemic world, where we’re *still* getting used to in-person parties and taking the meet-and-greets off Zoom, that’s not always easy to make happen. Thankfully, the internet is full of small talk tips that go way beyond chatting about the weather.

The social nicety of get-to-know-you chats is back in a big way. And though small talk has always been a skill to be mastered, it may feel even more daunting in our digital-first society. In a season of so many intimate gatherings, work events, and coffee meet-ups, we’ll take all the small talk tips we can get. And if you’re feeling a little intimidated? Don’t worry—you’re not alone.

Featured image from our interview with Devon Liedtke by Anastasiya Pudova.

Image by Christie Graham

7 Small Talk Tips for Easy, Genuine Conversation

After hearing so many clients express anxiety about the return of office banter, John Bowe, a speech trainer and author of I Have Something to Say: Mastering the Art of Public Speaking in an Age of Disconnection, was inspired to share a few tips with CNBC to help to get the conversation effortlessly flowing once again. However, the award-winning journalist is more interested in meaningful connection than perfect speaking skills. So in place of how-to small talk tips to tackle, Bowe provides conversational pitfalls to avoid.

The funny thing about office small talk, of course, is how universal its challenges feel. Ahead, discover a few of our favorite Bowe small talk tips that are particularly relatable for everyday gatherings.

Consider Your Entry

Of all the small talk tips, this might be our favorite. (And honestly, the one we need the most.) When mingling at a party or even just a communal area, knowing how to drop seamlessly into an already ongoing conversation can be intimidating, but timing is everything.

“First, wait for a lull. Then once you have someone’s attention and, ideally, receive a non-verbal go-ahead, that’s your chance,” Bowe writes for CNBC. “Keep distance in mind, too; don’t stand too close or too far away. You do want to be heard. You don’t want to shout or come across as creepy.”

Image by Suruchi Avasthi

Don’t Dive in With Controversial Topics

Being able to have challenging conversations is important, but when it comes to a light discussion with someone you’re still getting acquainted with, consider sticking to something you know you both share.

“If you gravitate towards [controversial] topics later on, great. But for starters, aim for something simple and close at hand that you and the other person can observe together,” Bowe writes.

Don’t Make It About Yourself, But Don’t Make It All About Them

There’s nothing worse than leaving a conversation feeling worried that you’ve left the wrong impression. Did I ask them enough questions? Did I just make that whole exchange about me? Naturally, if you’re nervous about commandeering the chat, you may end up putting too much pressure on the other person. A small talk tip mantra to keep in mind: the best conversations are balanced ones.

“Nobody likes to feel interrogated, so if you sense that questions aren’t welcome, back off. Instead, tell a story, offer an opinion or otherwise relieve them of the burden of performance,” Bowe explains.

Don’t Write Off Small Talk Altogether

It’s easy to dismiss the informal discourse as too trivial or insincere. Having a disdain for small talk can practically become a personality trait. But polite conversations about seemingly unimportant things can lead to something so much greater.

“Every relationship you value began somewhere—with an initial conversation,” Bowe notes. “Was it profound? Did you cure cancer? No. But you made a genuine connection.”

Read the full story, complete with all of Bowe’s insight, on CNBC.com.

This post was originally published on August 30, 2021, and has since been updated.

A Breathwork Expert Shares Her Favorite Practices for Cultivating Rest

Tell me if the same is true for you: vacations can be work. Sure, the theory sounds nice—the ability to break away from it all and take time solely to pour into yourself. But in practice? That’s a different story. When our day-to-day lives ask so much from us, putting the breaks on our addiction to busyness isn’t just difficult. Many times, it can feel impossible. Thankfully, teacher and author Ashley Neese reminds us: it isn’t only within our power to escape this hamster wheel of guilt—it’s necessary.

In her new book, Permission to Rest, Ashley invites us to rethink our relationship to rest. Rather than understanding it as a weakness or a moral failing, she asks us to consider the opposite: how rest can fuel and inspire fruitful, flourishing lives. Here at Camille Styles, our team is pursuing simplicity any way we can, in hopes that the resulting space breeds clarity and contentment. It’s a perspective Ashley so evidently shares in her manifesto for a more purposeful, intuition-led existence.

Featured image by Marielle Chua.

Permission to Rest

As we’ve read through Ashley’s book, we’re each awash with the wisdom pouring from every page. And though I’ve taken notes throughout, my favorite line serves as a reminder that rest isn’t a luxury nor an accessory to a beautiful life. In fact, as Ashley so eloquently expresses, the consistent practice of rest is essential:

“Our bodies need rest. Our minds need rest. Our hearts need rest. Our relationships need rest. Our creativity needs rest. Our culture needs rest. Our Earth needs rest.”

Ahead, Ashley shares an exclusive excerpt from her book, releasing on September 19. Her words serve as a call to action, reminding us that to move forward with grace not only in our own lives but as a collective, we have to reposition how we think about slowing down. We have to see rest as a necessary gift to offer ourselves again and again—all throughout our everyday.

Image by Erin Scott

Ashley Neese on the Transformative Power of Rest

Resting is one of the most impactful practices we can adopt for self-compassion, emotional well-being, collective care, and environmental repair. When we take a few moments each day to pause, to feel our exhales, to listen to the sounds that are present, or to notice the way light bends around a corner, we are engaging in a subversive act of reclaiming the innate wisdom within our bodies and within the natural world: the wisdom of rest.

When we practice resting, we allow ourselves to follow an organic rhythm that has the power to heal, to restore, and to liberate us from the oppression of overwork and constant productivity of our culture. When we practice resting, we engage in revolutionary acts that create social and environmental changes, rippling out to shift all aspects of life. Yet most of us will say, on any given day, that we simply cannot take the time to rest. I get it. I’ve been there.

I’ve been on the burnout train more times than I care to admit. I’ve struggled with addiction to substances, to work, to being of service, and to social media. I’ve pushed myself to the point of being bedridden more than once. I’ve fallen into the trap of believing that if I just do more, help more, work more, and keep pushing past my limits, I will finally feel like I am enough. And then I will be able to relax.

I’ve avoided rest for many of the reasons you’ve probably avoided it too: it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable. Yet, after years of dodging the medicine I needed the most, I’m here to tell you—there is no substitute for rest. There is no way to escape our fundamental human need for renewal. Individually and as a culture, we have been failing to take care of this essential need, and it’s causing high levels of stress and depletion within ourselves, our communities, and our environment.

We are exhausted. We are overwhelmed. We are weary.

Our bodies need rest. Our minds need rest. Our hearts need rest. Our relationships need rest. Our creativity needs rest. Our culture needs rest. Our Earth needs rest.

The promising news is that the value of rest is gradually on the rise in our collective consciousness. Enough of us are recognizing that feeling depleted and perpetually exhausted doesn’t have to be our baseline. Enough of us are tired of being sick and tired and are choosing to rest, despite existing in a culture that tells us that to rest is to admit weakness and needing to slow down is something that we should be ashamed of.

It’s okay to slow down. It’s okay to pause. It’s okay to rest.

Image left by Marielle Chua | Image right by Erin Scott

3 Practices to Cultivate Rest

Social Media Sabbatical

Taking a break from social media can be very illuminating. To engage with this practice, first decide when you want to begin the sabbatical and for how long—it can be one day, a week, a month, or longer. Do what feels right for you and know you can practice this as often as you like.

When you’re ready, delete the app from your smartphone. Pay attention to what shows up in the following hours, days, and weeks. Notice how often you habitually reach for your device to check the app. Think about what you really want when reach for it: What are hoping it will shift? Do you want it to connect you? Distract you? Numb you? Inspire you? From there, pay attention to how you felt when you reached for it and what you felt when it wasn’t available. Use this new space in your life to redirect your attention to yourself and your desire to rest. Commit to engaging with one of the rest practices from this book during your sabbatical.

When your social media sabbatical is over, download the app back to your device. Notice how you feel as you start to engage with the app and your communities again after a break. How does your body feel? How does your mind feel? How does your nervous system feel? What does your rest look like now? Keep an eye on your usage, and when you feel ready to take another sabbatical, you know what to do.

Remember, you don’t owe anyone on social media anything. Not one single thing. You don’t have to make an announcement when you take a sabbatical—in fact, you can take one whenever you want to because guess what, you’re in charge! You call the shots. You decide how much of your energy, time, creativity, life, and data you give away.

Image by Erin Scott

Cultivate a Rest/Work Rhythm

We often override our internal signals for rest while we work. Our bodies send us clear messages to rest—like fidgetiness, hunger, drowsiness, and loss of focus—yet we press on anyway for many of the reasons I’ve shared throughout this book. When we push ourselves to keep going despite the signals to slow down, we start to draw on our emergency reserves—like our stress hormones, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol—to keep us going. This shifts our nervous systems into high gear, or sympathetic arousal, and starts to drain our body budget (see chapter 02, “What Rest Is—and Isn’t”). This is one of the reasons so many of us are burned-out and severely depleted, struggling to get through a day of work without stimulants like caffeine and sugar. When we rely on our own stress hormones to keep us going instead of taking the breaks we need, our work and lives suffer tremendously.

Our bodies have a natural rhythm, just like the circadian rhythm of the moon and sun (see part 06, “Resting from the Outside In”). When we intentionally shift our bodies from overwork and overdrive to a sustainable flow that includes significant blocks of rest, so much in our lives will improve. One rest break at a time, you will begin to feel less depleted and find that you can not only produce work of greater value, you will leave work feeling less depleted and more satisfied.

Schedule periods of rest every ninety minutes when you are working. Ideally they will be twenty-minute breaks but feel free to start with five-or ten-minute breaks and work your way up. During your breaks, be sure to get fresh air, walk around, drink water, and stretch. You can build this rhythm in to your workday to add moments of replenishment.

Nature Bathing

Although forest bathing has its own researched benefits, including the stress-relieving phytoncides from particular trees, Nature Bathing is a practice you can do in any natural environment that feels restorative to you. For example, a twenty-minute stroll through a city botanical garden without being on your smartphone can boost cognition and memory as well as improve feelings of well-being. You can practice in a nearby park or make an adventure of it and go out of town. I highly recommend both. Try to nature bathe in a place close-by once a week and get a little farther away once a month or every other month. I encourage you to organize an annual trip to a state or national park: research shows that the wilder the nature we immerse ourselves in, the greater restoration we experience.

To begin the practice, choose a location. Find a place where you can walk aimlessly and as slowly as possible.

Notice your surroundings as you walk. See the trees, the plants, the light stretching across the land, any wildlife nearby. Listen to the sounds of your environment—the wind blowing, the rising of the tide, the croak of a frog. Feel the ground underneath your feet, the texture of the land. Inhale and exhale deeply, allowing your body to find its way to the place you are currently in. Give your body time to catch up to this moment.

Continue to walk slowly and pay attention to the impulses that your body has to walk in a particular direction and follow them. There is no need to rush. Take your time. You’re not trying to get anywhere; you are basking in the beauty and wonder of nature. You are settling into a more coherent, relaxed state.

When complete, offer gratitude to the land and to anything else you feel called to. Notice how your body feels. Bring awareness to your thoughts, emotions, and sense of spaciousness.

Excerpted from “Permission to Rest” text copyright © 2023 by Ashley Neese. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House.”

The New Dinner Party Rules: An Etiquette Expert Shares What’s Outdated and What’s Here to Stay

Emily Post’s presence was felt throughout my childhood home (my mom displayed her etiquette bible proudly on our bookshelf). From how we set the table to dinner party etiquette to the respect we showed one another—these “rules” guided much of my younger life. They’ve also played a key role in who I’ve grown up to be. Yes, while you might be rolling your eyes at the idea of etiquette—and an elementary-age girl taking so much interest in the subject—it’s back in a big way. And because we’re all craving more gatherings, connection, and togetherness in 2023, knowing your dinner party etiquette is more important now than ever.

Featured image by Michelle Nash.

Image by Riley Reed

Dinner Party Etiquette: Everything You Need to Know for 2023

In the words of etiquette expert Heather Wiese, etiquette “is a path to compassion, consideration, and even empathy.” When posited that way, how could you not see the need for more etiquette in our world today?

To get a better idea of what’s expected of us (both as guests and as hosts), I chatted with Heather about all things etiquette. We spoke about what the concept means in 2023, how to navigate hostess gifts for every occasion, and the complex matter of dietary preferences. Be sure to read to the end—Heather’s sharing what’s in and what’s out for perfecting your dinner party etiquette.

Image by Michelle Nash

“Etiquette” in this day and age can seem outdated. What does it mean for you in 2023?

This is a great question. What’s outdated about etiquette is the idea that etiquette is outdated. I love that there’s a new buzz around reformatting our ideas and ideals of protocol. Behavior is the elephant in the room no one can avoid. We all might as well harness it and learn to handle it well. Modern etiquette guidelines are the tools you need to realize what isn’t typically obvious to you. Frankly, these revelations make the difference between being perceived as gracious and impressive or possibly lacking in an ability to relate or conduct yourself well in a given situation.

Image by Michelle Nash

How can etiquette be used as a tool to help us act more respectfully and thoughtfully toward others?

Reprogram your idea of etiquette. It’s a word many of us need to reconsider and redefine in our minds in order to see its real value. If you use etiquette to feel more elite or one-up someone, you’ve missed the boat completely (and you can assume everyone saw the big splash into a self-absorbed abyss). Etiquette is a path to compassion, consideration, and even empathy when used as intended.

Reprogram your idea of etiquette. It’s a word many of us need to reconsider and redefine in our minds in order to see its real value.

Image by Michelle Nash

What are some good examples of host gifts to bring to a dinner party? Do you always have to bring a gift?

The key phrase here was “dinner party.” Yes—always contribute. If you’re helping with the dinner itself, there might be something small in addition you can bring that says, “I appreciate you hosting.” However, when you’re arriving as a carefree guest being served, a modest but thoughtful gift is a big YES.

I’ll give you a few scenarios from my past few weeks. Over the holiday, I was invited to my parents’ friends for a casual dinner and football-watching. They made dinner. He has a wine collection I’d be intimidated to grace with my last-minute local purchase. Instead, I brought a pretty desk calendar from my collection.

There really are only two rules: consider the host, contribute something material in some way.

I’ve picked up some funny cocktail napkins, a nice candle, and some gourmet chocolates on different occasions for similar parties. Last week I was invited to the home of someone I don’t know well. I had no idea of their style. I grabbed a gift tag from my stash and a fresh orchid on the way to the dinner party. Last night I headed out last-minute to a friend’s house for an impromptu dinner. I grabbed a bottle of wine from my stash so I didn’t show up empty-handed. There really are only two rules: consider the host, contribute something material in some way.

Image by Belathée Photography

Dietary preferences are so common these days. What are some ways to navigate this as a guest? What about if you’re the host?

If you’re the guest and you have true dietary restrictions, you’ve been doing this dance far longer than any of us have been commenting on the subject. I commend you for showing up and doing what you can to be social and relatively discrete with a difficult situation. Everyone I’ve encountered with these issues has always handled it so well. They contact the host ahead, sometimes bring their own food, and put everyone at ease as they navigate their critical musts. Seeing this done graciously is truly impressive.

Hosts, it’s always good to ask if anyone has any dietary limitations and if you’re feeling accommodating if anyone has any preferences—although the latter is not necessary. If you do have someone who requires special food handling, ask their advice and take it. Take it as a chance to learn from someone’s experiences.

Image by Julie Pointer Adams

It’s 2023—what’s in and what’s out in the world of dinner party etiquette?

What’s in:

  1. Good manners and thoughtfulness. Knowing how to set the table isn’t out of style by any means. If you’re truly into entertaining, knowing some modern trends to offer up is always good.
  2. Know the source. Growing sustainably, responsibly, locally—these are all growing in popularity and they are great dinner party conversation. Be ready for interesting meals that bring conversation to the table.
  3. Mocktails. That’s right! They aren’t just for moms-to-be anymore. Creative juices and flavor are flowing and so fun to make. There’s now a trendy take on being healthier, pacing yourself better, or simply avoiding alcohol altogether.
  4. Mushrooms, roots, and foraging. Unique fruits aren’t out altogether, but the earthy elements and backwoods fare are having their day.
  5. Experiences. Maybe it’s because we’re all out of our cages with a new view on life and friends and celebrating. Whatever the reason, planning out themes, bringing in a pro, or creating an experiential environment is definitely having a moment.
  6. Etiquette! No, really. People are arming themselves with civility and modern manners for no other reason, just to have an enjoyable night away from the norm. Come looking educated in this little movement with questions to make conversation like: How do you know the host? How do you like to spend your free time? Do you get to travel or if you could, where would you love to go? Are you watching a good series or reading a good book?

What’s out:

In general, a dinner party is about people gathering and having a great time. These are the buzz-kills you should always avoid, especially now.

  1. Bringing bought food when everyone else has contributed a homemade dish.
  2. Bringing your complaints or divisive conversations to the party.
  3. Cooking with canned, preservative-loaded foods.
  4. Talking to only the people you know and not asking questions to learn about new subjects or people (it’s just a few hours, you can do it!).
  5. Bringing up how much something costs or how much someone, including yourself, makes.
  6. Arriving early. Give your hosts time to do their thing. Don’t show up early and cut their timeline short.
  7. Arriving fashionably rudely late. Let’s be real, dinner parties aren’t business meetings—unless they sort-of are. A good guideline is 5-10 min grace from the host’s recommended start time.